What Is the Difference Between a Clamp Multimeter and a Multimeter?

A clamp multimeter is used to measure electric currents. Most multimeters will let you measure the resistance, current, and voltage of an electrical connection. This is a measurement of volts or ohms. These are all handheld machines that are used to find faults within systems or to get a very high amount of accuracy for testing. You can use them to check the poser of wiring systems, power supplies, appliances, motor controls, and batteries. Some of the least expensive multimeters cost $10 while the very fancy ones can be upwards of $5000.

Clamp Multimeter

This multimeter will have a built-in clamp in which you can attach it directly to the electrical conductor. This can make measuring the current very easy as you do not have to disconnect the wire and then pass it through a probe or have the danger of touching the current with your hand and getting a shock. This type of meter is traditionally used by electricians. These are particularly good at measuring systems with high currents as using a clamp multimeters on lower currents can be more difficult as you will need to wrap the wire around the clamp several times to get a strong enough reading.


Most multimeters are digital as these can have several extra features, are durable, and are extremely accurate.  Some of the more common ways to connect to the wire or device being tested is using pointed probes or hook clips that are retractable. These connections will be insulated and may even have banana jacks. Digital multimeters are much more accurate than analog multimeters because inside the meter is a processing computer that provides better measurements. Some of the best digital models will have an accuracy of + or – 0.01%.

What can you Measure?

There are many different measurements that a multimeter can make, no matter if it is digital, analog, or clamp. You can read the voltage of a device (volts), the current (amperes) and the resistance (ohms. Some other measurements can include decibels, capacitance (farads), conductance (Siemens), frequency (hertz), duty cycle (%), inductance (henry’s), and the temperature. Many times digital multimeters can provide information on the circuits such as continuity, diodes, and transistors.

The voltage is the force that drives the electrical current. The current is the measurement of the flow of the electricity. The resistance shows how much opposition there is through the object to that electric flow. The capacitance measures the force between 2 different objects that have a voltage. This shows the electrical difference between the 2 objects. The conductance is a measurement of how easily the electricity can flow through its path.  A decibel is generally related to sound but it can also be used to measure the power of electronics. The duty cycle is the percentage in which the object is active when the device is on.

Which to Use?

Determining which to use will depend on what you are measuring and how often you use it. Clamp multimeters are the best for high voltage systems. Digital meters are very economical and convenient if you need many different electrical measurements and require high accuracy.